PORTLAND, Ore. — Jacob Douglas enjoyed a banner day at Portland International Raceway on Friday. So did Simon Sikes and team owner Augie Pabst. Douglas, from Christchurch, New Zealand, firstly claimed his first-ever pole position, then later in the afternoon executed a perfect opening leg of the Discount Tire Grand Prix of Portland tripleheader by racing to an accomplished victory.
Jay Howard Driver Development’s Evagoras Papasavvas, from Loveland, Ohio, kept Douglas on his toes by finishing just over a half-second behind in second place.
Close behind, Sikes, from Augusta, Ga., cruised home in third to secure the USF2000 Presented by Cooper Tires championship and a Discount Tire Driver Advancement Scholarship valued at $433,200 to guarantee graduation next year into USF Pro 2000 Presented by Cooper Tires, the next step on the USF Pro Championships ladder that propels talented young drivers toward a future career in the NTT IndyCar Series.
“I am at a loss for words. I don’t even know what I am feeling,” Sikes said. “It has been a rollercoaster throughout the year. It has been tough and it had its ups and downs. I mean St. Petersburg couldn’t have started off worse, and it was a mountain to climb just to get here. To finally get this for Augie and the whole Pabst team – the first driver’s championship for Pabst Racing – I am so happy to do it for the whole team including Burke Harrison, by engineer, and Bob Perona, my awesome driver coach, and everyone that made this possible.
“It means the world to me and I can’t thank everyone enough. The team has been phenomenal, the car is the fastest it has been all year and I just can’t thank Doug Mockett and everyone who supports me enough.”
Douglas set the tone by posting the fastest time during practice this morning and then repeated the feat when it really mattered a little later in the day in qualifying to secure his first-ever Cooper Tires Pole Award. Pabst Racing teammates Max Garcia, from Coconut Grove, Fla., and Sikes cemented the Wisconsin-based team’s domination by securing second and third on the grid.
All of the leaders made it through the Festival Curves chicane on the opening lap relatively cleanly, although those in the midfield weren’t so fortunate. Cue a brief full-course caution.
Douglas remained undaunted at the front and kept a slender advantage throughout the 25-lap race. For most of the way it was Sikes who remained in his mirrors, but following a second, short full-course for some debris on the track – actually the headrest which had become dislodged and then fallen off Thomas Schrage’s Exclusive Autosport car – Papasavvas took over in second from Sikes and kept the pressure on Douglas until the checkered flag.
Sikes chased hard in third before easing off on the final lap, secure in the knowledge that he had the championship crown firmly in his grasp.
Nikita Johnson, from Gulfport, Fla., forged his way from seventh on the grid to fourth for VRD Racing, well clear of Sikes’ only remaining championship rival, Australian Lochie Hughes (Jay Howard Driver Development), who fought back from 14th to fifth after being involved in an incident at the first restart.
Hughes’ teammate Al Morey, from Fortville, Ind., drove a sensible race to rise from 15th on the grid to seventh ahead of Canadian Mac Clark (DEForce Racing), who ran as high as fourth but lacked pace following an early skirmish and Gordon Scully (VRD Racing), from Chicago, Ill.
Hot on all their heels was Elliot Cox, from Indianapolis, Ind., who drove very impressively from 19th and last on the grid to 10th following a huge effort to repair a badly broken Tatuus USF-22 by his Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing Development team following a crash in morning practice. Cox and his team were deserving recipients of the Tilton Hard Charger Award.